A station too far: An East African woman gets a sour taste of VR’s “service”

by , under Enrique Tessieri

What would you say if you were a black East African nursing student in Finland and were aggressively escorted out of a train by two security guards? One held you by the arm, and the other had her in a chokehold.

What about if you are forced out of the train, you end up scraping and bruising your knee and elbow on the ground? And what about if the security guards, who saw your bruises, ordered you to leave the station?

A comprehensive study in 2018 on ethnic profiling by the University of Helsinki showed how ethnic profiling, especially by security staff, was a source of special concern.

“Many said [in the study] that security guards were often rude and treated them roughly, even violently,” said the University of Helsinki Professor Suvi Keskinen of one of the ethnic profiling study’s findings.

One migrant told Migrant Tales that some ticket inspectors can act in a racist manner. “They can be racist because they profile you [because you are not white],” he added. “The worst of the lot can sometimes be the non-white Finnish ticket inspectors.”

The unfortunate incident happened to the black woman on a local train one stop before her stop at Koivohovi in Espoo. The reason? Her phone went dead, and therefore could not show her monthly pass to the inspector.

“I pleaded with the inspector and later with the security guards to allow me to charge my phone so I could show them my ticket (see picture below).

The monthly pass ticket that a passenger could not show to the inspector of security guards because her phone went dead. She had a charger, but the security guards would not allow her to charge her phone. The whole incident could have been avoided if the passenger had connected her phone and charger to a socket.

Finnish railway operator VR and Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HSL) require passengers to have their tickets handy even if their phone is dead. In such cases, however, the passenger can be fined but can annul the fine if the person can prove later that he or she had a valid ticket.

VR and HSL have a 5-euro charge for this service.

So what’s the issue? How about if we start from the hostile treatment that the black woman received from the security guards and the ticket inspector who ordered them to get her off the train?

“When I asked the inspector if I could charge my phone, she responded ‘no, no, no,'” she continued. “As she is checking tickets, there are two security guards behind her and she points to me, telling them that I did not have a ticket.”

The woman pleaded with the inspector and security guards to let her plug her phone into a socket but it was to no avail.

“Everything started to get violent when a drunk man by the door overhead what was happening and told the guards that I had no choice but to walk home,” she said. “I was then forced physically off the train [at Kauniainen a two-minute train ride to my final station].”

As the woman was being forced off the train, one security guard held her by the arm while the other had her in a chokehold.

“I told them that, se sattuu mua (you are hurting me), really loudly. Let me go you are hurting me!” she said. “Just as I stepped out of the train I twisted my ankle and fell on the ground scraping my knee and elbow which were now bleeding. My shoes, glasses, and phone were all scattered on the found all about me..”

The woman said that while she was being escorted off the train, a young man started to film what was happening.

“They [security guards] ordered me to leave the station but I told them that I just landed on my knee and I am in pain. How do you expect me to walk home?”

The woman still pleaded with guards asking them to allow her to charge her phone so she could board the train to her last stop two minutes away. Treating her in a demanding way, the guards ordered her to leave.

“Have a good day learn how to behave,” they said and started to escort her from the station.

Noticing that she could not walk because her knee was bleeding and in pain, the woman decided not to comply. She turned back sat on a platform bench. “How can you ask me to walk home [in this state],” she told the security guards.

Since the woman would not comply with the security guards’ orders, they called the police. They waited for two hours before the police arrived.

“When the police came, I stood up, but I noticed they weren’t interested in hearing my side of what happened,” she continued. “So I just sat and started to weep.”

The woman asked the police if the police could see that she was bleeding and hurt. The police were unresponsive. They asked her to leave the platform and station. “We don’t have any legal obligation to charge your phone,” the police responded to the woman’s plea so she could show her train ticket. “We want you to leave this platform now.”

The police gave her an ultimatum: to leave in two minutes or be taken to a detention cell at the police station.

“As the police were threatening to take me to a detention center, the young man who had recorded the whole incident spoke up.

“I have recorded everything,” he told the police. “They [the security guards] were very harsh to this woman. I cannot understand why you are threatening to detain her if she is the one who was abused [by the guards]?”

The woman told the police that they could detain her if they wished. At least she could charge her phone at the police station. The police said it was impossible to charge her phone at the police station.

In the end, the police offered a sensible option to the hurt and distraught woman by taking her home. They told her that the security guards will file charges against her for resisting.

“I didn’t resist,” she told the police. “I will file charges against them for assaulting me.”

Incredibly, all of this could have been avoided with little understanding, which goes a long way in such situations. All it would have taken was to plug the phone into a socket and allow the woman to show her ticket.

It would probably take two to three minutes at the most.

  1. Yossie

    “It is incredible that all of this could have been avoided with a little bit of understanding, which goes a long way in such situations. All it would have taken was to plug the phone into a socket and allow the woman to show her ticket.”

    It is incredible how you never held non-whites accountable for their actions. All this could had been avoided if she had followed the rules of having their ticket ready for inspection. She could had charged her phone earlier before the inspectors came. She however didn’t. Also she become hostile and refused to leave the train, leading it for her to be removed from the train.

    She could had just leave the train, walk home and own up her own mistake. But of course that would had been too much to ask. It is always white people’s fault. Oh the opression!

    Also, I do not see chokehold on anywhere. I suppose that is the new thing trending for you guys?